This year, Lord Ganesh's birthday came early and we had the opportunity to experience the festival first hand! The Ganapati festival originated in Pune over 125 years ago. The main purpose of the festival when it originated was to bring Indians together against the British rule.
All of us took part in the family process to welcome Lord Ganesh into the home. Here is Soham wearing a traditional Indian topi (hat) that reminded us of my grandfather.
The Ganapati festival begins with placing statues of Ganesha in the home or on public podiums. The podiums are beautifully decorated in preparation for Lord Ganesh.
All of us were excited to begin the celebrations!
Before Lord Ganesh enters the home, there is a small welcome ceremony.
Modak is a sweet Indian dumpling filled with fresh coconut and sugar. It is considered to be the favorite sweet of Lord Ganesha and is thus made during the festival to offer as prasad.
This year I watched my mom and aunts make modak. The process is intricate and labor intensive but a fun tradition that brings together families.
This is what the modak looks like. All that needs to be done is a quick steam.
Every year my cousin and his family use their creativity to prepare a podium for their Ganapati statue.
My nephews used their books this year to create a wonderful podium for their Ganapati statue. Lord Ganesh is known as the God of Wisdom, hence the creative use of books here!
All over Pune, there are processions to welcome a Ganapati statue and Lord Ganesh at the beginning of the festival. Here is an example of a procession on Laxmi Road.
The kids enjoyed watching the large dhols lead the procession.
Over the course of two nights, my family came together to visit multiple Ganapati exhibits all over Pune. Most were massive, meticulously created and beautiful.
I loved that the younger generation was just as excited as the rest of us to stay up late and walk around to visit all of the exhibits.
This exhibit was probably one of my kids' favorites. Located in the Pune Mandai (largest vegetable market in Pune), this Ganapati was displayed in a Jain Mandir. My kids practice both Jainism and Hinduism so this exhibit connected with them.
Even after a long walk to the Mandai were were all smiling.
Visiting this exhibit felt like we were walking onto the set of a Bollywood movie.
The kids particulary enjoyed celebrating the festival with my mom.
Here, the exhibit included a replica of Shaniwar Wada.
The kids are still smiling!
This is a replica of the larger Lalbaugcha Raja Ganapati statue in Mumbai.
This has been big year for India and space explorations. Not only did a movie release to remind India of its landing on Mars but India attempted to be the 4th country to land on the moon on September 7th.
Its Day 2 of the festival and the kids are really enjoying the celebration.
Pune has so many Ganapati exhibits that the kids decided to sit in the riskshaw with their hands together for the ride home.
We visited a kid friendly exhibit that used the Avengers theme.
Here we are on day 2 for another adventure.
Here is a replica of a temple from the city of Kolhapur that was created especially for the Ganapati Festival in Pune.
Its late the but the kids are enjoying each others company as we make it through the crowds to pay our respects.
On day 5 of the Ganapati festival, some folks perform a visarjan, which signifies the birth cycle of Lord Ganesh. The Ganapati statue is immersed in water to symbolize his return home.
Just as we held a procession to welcome Lord Ganesh home, there is a boisterous procession to say goodbye.
Not even the monsoon rains of Mumbai can stop this celebration!
Here is the Ganapati statue being carried off to the water.
This is a Hindu tradition where sisters tie a rakhi around the wrists of their brothers as a symbol of protection. Brothers in return give their sisters a gift.
Its not often that my mom or I are in India for this celebration. I can only remember a handful of these memories. Here is my mom with her brother who came all the way from Mahad to celebrate.
My dad is also lucky to share a bond with his sisters.
Family from Mahad and Mumbai joined us in Pune for this long weekend to celebrate both Independence day and Raksha Bandhan. Somehow the boys outnumbered the girls.
We found a place brave enough to handle 18 of us!
We ended the fun weekend with a family friendly movie. The kids gave this movie a thumbs up!
This beautiful temple is built on a hill overlooking the city of Hyderabad. The temple is constructed of 2000 tons of pure white marble and the main shrine is devoted to the Lord Venkateswara.
This monument was constructed in 1591 as a mosque and a monument. It has since become a landmark for the city of Hyderabad and is located in the middle of Old City.
This was the official residence of the Nizams of Hyderabad. Construction was started in the 18th century and its architectural style reflects influences of British colonialism and the Mughal empire. There is even a collection of vintage cars, including a 1912 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.
This fort was the capital of the Qutb Shahi dynasty in the 16th-17th centuries. The Fort was home to some famed diamonds, including the Koh-I-Noor Diamond and the Hope Diamond.
My cousin and his wife are located in Hyderabad and played a major role in our plans to explore this city!
On day 1 in Hyderbad we visited Ramoji Film City, dubbed the largest studio complex in the world!
My husband had just arrived, so this was a great opportunity to see family and celebrate. Here is a pic of most of my mom's family.
In the midst of the crazy rain (this has been a record monsoon season in Maharashtra), we spent some time bonding with family.
For the past several visits to India, we had not been able to venture beyond the state of Maharashtra where most of our family lives. Here we are at the Mumbai airport making our first trip out of the state!
My husband has lots of family in Jaipur and this was our first trip back to the city in 15 years!
The kids enjoyed spending time with their new cousins!
Since our last visit there were more additions to our family! The kids had a blast playing kanasta and cricket and sightseeing with their new cousins.
City Palace is in the heart of Jaipur and continues to house the former royal family. Built in the 18th century, it was the location for religious, cultural and administrative activities for this capital of Rajasthan. Surrounding the palace is evidence of a well-planned city, including wide symmetrical streets.
Old City Jaipur was painted pink in the 19th century to welcome the Prince of Wales. The city walls and buildings within the walls of old city remain pink.
We visited a special Jain temple in Jaipur, built by the kids' maternal great grandfather. Here students from all over India have the opportunity to receive free room and board as they study Jainism and Sanskrit. All of this is supported by the philanthropic legacy of my mother in law's father.
Summer birthdays can be hard but we try to make it extra special for Sia.
This lucky girl started her birthday week in Mumbai, and continued celebrations in Jaipur (pic here).
We made it to the Taj Mahal! Although this mausoleum (dedicated to Emperor Shah Jahan's 3rd wife Mumtaz Mahal) was built in the 17th century, its grandeur remains. Up close you can see the detailed marble carvings and symmetric marble inlay work, built by some 20,000 people over an 11 year period. The symmetry of the structure and all of its details are maj
This is the kids' 3rd trip to India and like me they always feel the most happy when they see family!
The kids did some sightseeing with their cousins on Sunday. We visited the Pune-Okayama Friendship Garden, a famous Japanese garden in the city.
Before arriving, we were able to organize our housing in a 2 bedroom flat located in the city. Here is a pic of our living room. See photo gallery for more pics.
We used a clear afternoon to visit a famous Peshwa site in the middle of Pune. The visit reminded me of the rich history of this city.
Although we have no shopping agenda, I thought it would be fun to show the kids one of Pune's main shopping districts. I had my first nose ring piercing on this street some 20 years ago.
No trip to Pune is every complete without a visit to this famous Ganapati temple. The temple was built in 1893 and is visited by locals regularly. I'm sure we will be visiting this temple many more times this summer.
The rain stopped finally stopped, allowing us to explore another neighborhood in Pune. We went to the Deccan area and walked through Sambhajirage Garden.
This week was also an exciting time for Indian cricket fans as India played New Zealand in the World Cup Finals. My son learned a new sport!
While I am off exploring geriatrics, the kids are also engaged in learning new things. They both enjoyed their first drawing class!
We used Sunday to explore another historical site. Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturbaji were imprisoned here from 1942 to 1944. His wife died here. The palace was originally built in 1892 as an act of charity.
My parents wanted to show me and the kids what life was like when they were growing up in India. We visited a replica of their village where my mom, dad and aunt shared lots of childhood memories, from swimming in a well to riding on a cattle cart.
One of my dad's favorite things to do is drink fresh coconut water. This is a fruit stand on our street.
My mom and I took the kids to a famous shopping market in Pune. The kids saw a variety of items from hair accessories to chappals. I think my daughter enjoyed the visit the most.
Usually my mom does the vegetable shopping in the morning but we wanted to show the kids the variety of vegetables and the "farm to stand" freshness.
We visited a famous fort in the city of Pune that was built in 1732 and was once home to the Peshwas including Baji Rao I. The Peshwas were part of the Maratha Empire.
We found some time to visit an art exhibit in the midst of all this rain!